Upcycling, downcycling, recycling and better use of raw materials are only a few terms for different sustainability efforts in the textile industry. The subject is complex and can have many different characteristics.
On the one hand there is the raw material PET bottles, i.e. former one-way water bottles, from which fleece fabrics or even carpets can be made in the second life cycle. Yesterday’s fashion items, i.e. used textiles, can also become a sought-after raw material and play a role in yarn production. A further recycling option belongs to the area of optimised raw material utilisation: Thanks to advanced machine technologies, high-quality yarns are nowadays produced from production waste or even from noils.
Outdated trousers become a top fashion item?
Unfortunately, textile recycling is not that simple. In Germany alone, over one million tonnes of old clothes are collected every year. But this huge mountain of material has to be sorted, classified and processed before it can be used as raw material. Some of it is marketed as used clothing. Another part is used as raw material and further processed, for example to make cleaning cloth, insulation material in cars or even bank notes. And a very large proportion is destined to end up in the incinerator because of its poor initial quality.
The simplest recycling route: Water bottle with a future
A basic distinction is made between chemical and mechanical recycling processes. The recovery of polyester granulate from PET bottles is assigned to the chemical side. The bottles are shredded into flakes, whose polymers are then dissolved. These dissolved polymers represent the spinning mass from which new fibers or directly a new web is produced.
For this process, Truetzschler Man-Made Fibers offers a line for producing high-quality carpet yarns, the so-called BCF yarns (Bulky Continous Filaments), directly from PET flakes. The process has three stages and consists of melting R-PET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate from PET bottles), spinning of a multifilament yarn via the spinneret, and subsequent drawing and texturing. Texturing refers to the permanent crimping of the filament.